Learn how you can get relief from a runny nose and itchy eyes.
As the weather begins to cool, it's easy to assume a runny nose is the beginning of a common cold, but that may not be the case. Even if you've never suffered from fall allergies, you can develop them as an older adult. For some people, structural changes in the nose that are associated with aging can predispose them to seasonal allergies.
Allergies in the fall don't always get the same attention as spring allergies, but their symptoms, including a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes, are just as troublesome. The season usually runs from late August to November, though a wet spring can accelerate plant and mold growth, which may cause symptoms to last into the fall.
Seniors and Allergies
Allergies can be difficult to diagnose in older populations—a doctor may write off congestion as a respiratory issue or itchy eyes as dry eyes. If you're also receiving treatment for a more serious or chronic health issue such as heart disease or diabetes, a runny nose may not be a priority.
Treating allergies in seniors can also be complicated. Antihistamines, which are often the first line of over-the-counter defense for allergy relief, can have side effects like dizziness and drowsiness that may not be safe for older adults. In addition, some allergy medications include ingredients that can have adverse interactions with medications prescribed for other health issues.
Fall Allergy Triggers and Best Practices
The most common fall allergy trigger is ragweed pollen. One ragweed plant can produce as much as one billion grains of pollen per season and since it can travel hundreds of miles from its source, it can typically affect most areas of the United States. Other fall allergy triggers include mold, dust mites, and weeds like goldenrod, curly dock, sheep sorrel, and sagebrush.
Treating fall allergies early and effectively is the best way to stay comfortable and healthy. Medications can help, but before you head straight to the pharmacy, try a few simple lifestyle changes.
- Think long term. A regular spin through the wash will remove allergens from bedding, but only temporarily. Dust mite covers can provide lasting protection to sheets, mattresses, and pillows.
- Check for leaks. Mold thrives in damp areas, so be sure to check pipes and valves for leaks to avoid creating an environment for spores.
- Clear leaf piles. Since dry leaves collect dust, pollen, and mold, it's best to clear piles away after raking.
- Keep pets clean. Furry friends can carry allergens into your home from the outdoors, so consider cleaning their coats with allergen wipes, be sure to wash and groom them regularly, and remember to keep them out of bedrooms.
Fall Allergy Medications
If lifestyle strategies don't provide enough relief from allergy symptoms, then it might be time to combine them with medication. Always consult your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist before taking a new medicine to learn how it may interact with other medications you're currently taking.
While antihistamines can be very effective in treating allergy symptoms, seniors should avoid older, first-generation antihistamines such as diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine as those ingredients can be sedating and opt instead for second-generation products like Claritin and Zyrtec. For relief from itchy, irritated eyes, try eye drops like Zaditor and Alaway.
Decongestant nasal sprays like Afrin and Sinex can help reduce congestion and inflammation of nasal passages. These products should not be used longer than three days. Using them longer can actually cause rebound congestion.
A steroid nasal spray like Flonase can help treat nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and runny nose while Nasacort Allergy 24 Hour can be effective at reducing congestion, sneezing, and itchy or runny nose.
If over-the-counter medications don't provide allergy relief, speak to your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist about a prescription shot or other medication options.
By Joelle Klein
WebMD, Fall Allergies
WebMD, Nasal Sprays for Allergies
Paparella Ear, Head and Neck Institute, Sinusitis: Special Considerations for Aging Patients
Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology, Treating rhinitis in the older population
Healthline, Common Fall Allergens & How to Fight Them
College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Seasonal Allergies
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American, Allergy Facts and Figures